Sometimes in our world there is news or a circumstance that breaks through the cloud of Christian clichés that give us an illusory sense of control over our life. Do you know what clichés I mean? We’ve all heard them. Someone puts their house up for sale, and it sells immediately, and someone posts “That’s God’s favor, right there!” Or the guy speaks up at community group about how every time they give to the Lord, money just appears out of nowhere.
And I always think, “That’s great, but that’s just not how it goes for us.” In fact, lately, as I look around, many of our friends are in this place with us of trusting God despite great disappointment and amidst the carnage of broken dreams.
- What do we do when the miracle we hoped for, prayed for, and desperately needed, missed the deadline?
- When the adoption we knew we were called to falls through, leaving us devastated with an empty nursery?
- When we feel called to be a wife or a husband, but the years of waiting for a partner has made our hope weak?
- When we find out that the parent who is the glue that holds our family together has a body racked with inoperable cancer?
- When the money we needed to make the payment doesn’t show up?
- When the path we know God told us to take leads us into a valley deeper than anything we’ve ever known?
- When month after month after month our body betrays us and the baby that we hoped for isn’t there, and we feel broken and forgotten?
Where do we go when life is real and tough and the clichés and “what you give, you get” faith doesn’t pan out? This week I, along with the rest of the world, have watched Rick and Kay Warren face every parent’s nightmare scenario. We all know the fear that we will lose our child, and it is hard to even imagine that these righteous wonderful people are now facing the aftermath of the suicide of their youngest son after his lifelong struggle with depression. I am broken for them.
These earthly realities, and the Warrens’ pain, confronts us with the simple terrible truth that sometimes, in this world, the miracle we need doesn’t happen.
What do we do with that?
I think we have no choice, in these places of brokenness and desperation, but to force ourselves to look up to the Lord and look ahead to the next world. To say, with abandon, this place is not our home and the circumstances I see now are not the whole picture. To allow ourselves time and space sometimes to grieve. To cry out in justifiable anger and fear and disappointment, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Because, just as the Lord not only allowed but ordained his Son to die on a cross in this world, to achieve a greater good in the world to come, unimaginable sorrow and pain is sometimes allowed in our lives in this world to achieve a greater good in the world to come. And we don’t always get the luxury of understanding why.
The healing we hoped for comes in the next world, leaving only devastation in this one. The investments we are making are in the next world, leaving debt and insecurity in this world. The children we want to carry in our wombs and fill our homes in this world are sent instead to heaven, where we will someday hold them (and hopefully understand). The path we are on will sometimes take us into pain and loss in this world, to reap a harvest of joy and righteousness in the next world.
We do have hope for a future, because of Christ (and for that I am so grateful), but sometimes we need to release our desire to see that hope realized in this world. Because the simple fact is, sometimes it isn’t.
I think that is the hard lesson of the Warrens. They will see their son again. He will be whole, at peace. They will be reunited. But everyday until then, as they walk this earth, they walk it with the weight of grief. And may God help them, and us, to bear that weight well until they can say, with their Savior, “It is finished.”
And then the life free of disappointment will begin.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:4)
Until then, we “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Rom 12:15) and we “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). And we stop with the ridiculous unhelpful Christian clichés that do nothing but add weight onto our brothers and sisters who are bearing burdens.